Here are a few perennial vegetables that I have been growing the past couple of years. We have some of these, and more plants, for sale at the Derryduff nursery. I will be away from next week until the end of July but if you are interested in plants contact me through the comments. Perennials have the advantage of not having to be sown from seed each year, so you don’t have to dig and prepare soil and weed so much, which means some of them are producing quite early in the season while you are still struggling to get your annual sprouts started. Although some are vulnerable to slugs in the first year, most are more resistant to slug damage than many annual veg once they are established. Most of these below I have established in forest garden situations, around or between fruit and nut trees. They have the disadvantage that they take at least a couple of years or maybe more before they produce much.
Siberian Purslane- claytonia sibirica excellent perennial salad, beet-flavoured leaves, grows to about 8-12”high and wide, semi-evergreen in mild areas, ready to eat very early, from late February onwards; shade tolerant. Tasty!
This is a new one for me, only in its second year so I have not been eating from it yet. Growing here on a sandy bank through a ground cover of creeping raspberry Rubus “Betty Ashburner”. It seems to have been blown over by the wind or possibly knocked over by hares the little divils.
Good king Henry Chenopodium bonus-henricus -Perennial greens, can be eaten cooked like spinach (too bitter raw); Good ground-cover, happy in some shade under trees. This is a native wild edible, uncommon though- I’ve never seen it in the wild.
One of my favorites, Turkish Rocket Bunias orientalis is very easy to grow, highly productive tough perennial, grows 80cms high and 30-40cms wide; produces abundance of small broccolli heads from March, followed by edible flowers; quite a strong pepper-flavour, and the leaves are far too bitter to eat raw, maybe cooked they are ok but I don’t bother. I had a good few meals of this in the spring and then cut some of them back hard; they are now producing another set of heads. The strong flavour is not for everyone but I love them and this is a really hardy plant that can easily hold its own against weeds once established. Essential for the forest garden.
Pokeweed- phytolacca americana- a known wild edible from North America, this plant provides asparagus-like spears edible up to about 2ft- the plant itself will grow 6ft or more. Highly recommended by Martin Crawford of the Agroforestry Research Trust he warns in his book Creating a Forest Garden how to cook it:
The shoots are toxic when raw and must be prepared properly. Place in cold water, bring to the boil, then discard the water and replace with new boiling water and boil for 10minutes. The cooked shoots are delicious- like a larger version of asparagus- great with butter or a sauce.
I have a patch of pokeweed now in its second year, and tried my first shoots a couple of weeks ago- I found them very nice and tender. Much easier to grow than asparagus, productive and shade tolerant, and the extra hassle of boiling twice is no bother really- highly recommended.
Not really a vegetable, more a herb, Sweet Cicely Myrrhis odorata is worth growing as an ornamental for its show of white snowy flowers in the spring, aniseed flavored leaves- used for sweetening acid fruits and rhubarb- and crunchy seeds which are ready now like an aniseed sweet. The roots are also edible apparently. Seems very happy even in deep shade. Lovely! Grows to about 2-3ft high and over a foot wide.
In the forest garden. Chives and Turkish rocket in flower in the foreground beneath apple trees.
Finally, couldn’t resist posting up this picture of one of the hares I share the land with, right outside the backdoor!